President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö’s speech at the reception for war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd at the Presidential Palace on 1 December 2022

Kuva: Matti Porre/Tasavallan presidentin kanslia

Honoured War Veterans, Members of the Lotta Svärd, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is an honour to celebrate Finland’s independence with you. Our independence, which we have because of you. I want to state that we remember, we respect and we thank you.

War is always cruel. I am sure you all bear traces of war – deep wounds. Despite those difficult experiences, you made a return to life. You returned to establish careers, families, homes and build society, and you were able to do it.

Surely quite a few of you have sometimes stopped to think “how did I manage through all of that”. And the answer appears to be that “to my surprise, I found in myself the ability to endure, to withstand adversity. To exceed limits that previously seemed quite impossible”. It is a good lesson for all of us that, in a tight situation, a person finds new qualities in themself to endure, withstand and move on.

Today, war is raging in Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And the Ukrainians are now discovering for themselves, surely to their own surprise not to mention the rest of us, that they have the capabilities to defend themselves. Such capabilities with which they have managed to exceed those seemingly impossible limits.

The waves of that war are being felt here, too. While our security position is very stable, you have surely noticed that there is concern about energy, its price, even its availability and the rising cost of living. These are very minor difficulties compared to all that you have experienced. But new, difficult experiences for many generations. It is then that the lesson inherited from you, that a person finds qualities within themself when they get into a tight spot, will save and help us move forward.

Commander, Chairs of Heritage Associations, you carry out important work by taking this message forward and reminding future generations of it. Thank you for your work.

We hopefully have a nice and relaxed time together, during which we can remember the past. And, above all, my spouse and I wish to show all of you the gratitude and respect you have earned.